Host City: Atlanta, United States
Date Started: July 21, 1996
Date Finished: July 28, 1996
Participants: 477 (366 men and 111 women) from 68 countries
Youngest Participant: Aleksey Markov (17 years, 60 days)
Oldest Participant: Kent Bostick (43 years, 28 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 6 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): France (9 medals)
There were many changes to the cycling program in 1996. Probably the biggest one was that professionals from the pro cycling tour were declared eligible to ride in the Olympics. This allowed future seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and recent five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Induráin to again compete at the Olympics. As to the program itself, the men’s team time trial, on the Olympic Program since 1960, was eliminated. It was replaced by an individual time trial on the road for both men and women. Part of the loss of the team time trial was related to the professionals. Although they often rode team time trials in the major tours, these were usually ridden with company sponsored teams of nine (or more) riders, rather than the four-man national teams that had become standard at the Olympics. The event had also been discontinued at the World Championships after 1994.
Another discipline of cycling was also added to the program with mountain biking making its Olympic début, with individual cross-country events for both men and women. Mountain biking had become popular in the 1980s with new bikes with thicker, heavier tires, and special shocks. World Championships were first conducted in 1990 for both men and women. At the World Championships, several different events are contested, notably cross-country and downhill, but only cross-country was added to the Olympic Program. The mountain biking events were held at the Georgia International Horse Park, where the equestrian events were also contested, with the men racing over 48.7 km. and the women over 31.9 km.
The men’s track program did not change, consisting of the five events held since 1984 – kilometer time trial, match sprint, individual pursuit, team pursuit, and points race. But the women added a third track event, the points race joining the match sprint and individual pursuit. All the track events took place at the Stone Mountain Velodrome, an outdoor velodrome with a 250 metre cement track. Since 1976, save for the American Olympics of 1984 and 1996, and Barcelona in 1992, the Olympic velodrome has been covered.
The road events were conducted on the hilly Road Cycling Circuit designed around Atlanta. The men’s mass start race was of 221.85 km., the men’s individual time trial was 52.2 km., while the women’s races were contested over 104.4 and 26.1 km., respectively.
In the world of cycling one other major change had occurred since 1992. Thru 1994, professionals and amateur raced at separate World Championships. But after that year, the distinctions were eliminated and only one World Championship was held, open to any rider.